Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jerry Jones
Gazette Editor 

Taking away Boeing pride

 

January 30, 2020



Some day, maybe two, three or 10 years from now, a comprehensive book on the Boeing disasters will be written and published. How did a company with all its design experience, corporate skill, money and pride fall to where it is today?

The primary loss, of course, has been sustained by the families of the passengers and crew members who were killed in the two tragic accidents after the Boeing 737 Max failed. Twice.

A secondary loss has also been sustained by people who were raised in the northwest where Boeing has been a factor over decades. For them, Boeing will never be the same Boeing again.

On June 25, 2016, Addison Pemberton of Spokane flew his restored 1928 Boeing 40-C south to Colfax to be part of the fly-in at the Colfax airport. Attendees had a good chance to see where the company started and the skills which went into introducing the airplane to the public and to customers.

Pemberton's restored airplane was used six years earlier to make a symbolic rendezvous over Seattle with the then latest new Boeing, the 787 Dreamliner.

A big day in Boeing history was booked Aug. 6, 1955, when test pilot Tex Johnston, who joined the company in 1948, flew a prototype of the Boeing 707 over the crowd assembled around Lake Washington for the Gold Cup hydroplane races. During the approach, Johnston informed his co-pilot he was going to put the giant airplane, Boeing's key airplane for conversion to the jet age, into a barrel roll for the boat race fans. He actually did two rolls.

Among the surprised spectators was Boeing chairman William Allen who was entertaining several industry officials aboard a yacht. All seemed surprised, and delighted, after Johnston executed the rolls.

The next day Allen summoned Johnston to his office and inquired "what the hell were you doing?”

"I was selling airplanes," Johnston explained.

He wasn't fired.

In 1971 the demand for airplanes leveled off, and Boeing had to cut back. During that time, a couple of real estate agents posted a sign which explained the lean times.

"Will the last person leaving Seattle please remember to turn out the lights."

The sign etched a level of resilience for Boeing, then the primary big money company in pre-tech Seattle.

Boeing survived, and Seattle survived.

In February of 1969 Boeing rolled out the 747, the first jumbo jet. It has produced 1,557 of the airplanes at the Everett plant, and it still anticipates extended production of the airplane which will essentially be used in freighter modes in the future.

The 747 is 231 feet long, with a 211-foot wingspan. It weighs 403,500 pounds empty.

Life-long Boeing fans carry a lot of first-hand lore and pride about the company and its achievements. They can be expected to line up to read a book about how all that was changed by those who made the decisions which brought about the loss of lives and reputation.

Jerry Jones,

Editor

 
 

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